Especially in Afghanistan, but also in Iraq, Islamist forces have targeted the translators for retribution. If they can't get to the translator directly, they'll go after the translator's family. Dozens have been killed, many more kidnapped, injured, or maimed.
The translators often formed very close relationships with the troops they served, and those troops, once back in the U.S., have gone to great lengths to try to get their translator friends to safety in the U.S. You'd think this would be easy, as under pressure from these troops Congress passed years ago (and the President signed) several pieces of legislation designed to do exactly that – but thousands of these authorized visas go unused, while thousands of translators yearning to be in the U.S. remain in Iraq and Afghanistan, afraid for themselves and their families every day.
There is no good reason for it. Nothing other than U.S. State Department red tape is standing in the way. This has been true for six years now. Piles of forms, process that takes months, and other bureaucratic “features” are the only barriers. It's disgusting, infuriating, and shameful. These translators have already proven their friendship with Americans in the most meaningful way imaginable – by putting their lives on the line for their American friends.
In the YouTube clip I've posted here, John Oliver does a remarkably good job highlighting this problem. He conveys the issue in detail, so far as I can confirm, in a completely even-handed and accurate way. He's also funny in the process, a fact that I found challenging to deal with: humor while being angered is not something I experience every day. Bottom line, he's very effective at communicating this issue – far more effective than any news organization or politician I've ever seen. There are some lessons here that politicians could profit from...